Step Up & Speak Out initiative aids in mental health awareness


Step Up Speak Out

Megan Medfisch Health and fitness reporter

Step Up & Speak Out, a collaborative initiative on campus, educates students and faculty on how to help themselves and others with mental health concerns.

“Our biggest aim is to make sure university community members are aware of resources for assisting in distressed individuals,” said Taléa Drummer-Ferrell, the dean of students. “We want to make sure they know how to recognize what it looks like when someone’s struggling.”

Drummer-Ferrell has been working on the initiative since July in collaboration with Psychological Services, University Health Services, the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and Police Services.

Carrie Berta, a staff psychologist in Psychological Services, also works with Step Up & Speak Out.

“Mental health issues are an increasing concern on college campuses across the country, with faculty and staff thrust into the role of ‘first responders’ to crises and other difficult situations,” Berta said. “Helping those in need not only strengthens our community, but it is an integral part of keeping the campus safe and ensuring that individuals in need can be linked to appropriate services and resources.”

The program works to reduce the stigma associated with counseling and to cultivate a culture of caring at Kent State, while providing information about mental health resources. 

Step Up & Speak Out also offers training sessions to faculty and staff members.

“We have been able to train and educate many departments, faculty and staff on responding to distressed and disruptive individuals, as well as those who may be at risk for suicide,” Berta said. “This has offered the opportunity to build collaborative relationships with those on our campus who regularly interface with students and who are in a unique position to observe changes or signs that a student may need additional support.”

Julie Vandegrift, a data quality assurance analyst at Kent State, attended a Step Up & Speak Out training session in 2019. 

“The material covered pertained to mental health awareness, especially as it relates to anxiety, depression and suicide stemming from it,” Vandegrift said. “I found the training valuable at the time and still do.”

To provide students and faculty with resources at their fingertips, Step Up & Speak Out also has an app, Drummer-Ferrell said. 

“If students are in need of assistance they can download our app, reach out to Psychological Services or the Office of Dean of Students for help,” she said. 

This year, Psychological Services is offering free virtual group counseling sessions through Microsoft Teams, Berta said. 

“‘Anxiety and Stress During COVID-19’ is designed to help students to better manage the stress of everyday life. ‘Art of Coping’ focuses on building skills to manage emotions, tolerate distress, and handle challenging interpersonal situations. ‘Empowering Students in Recovery’ is for students who are interested or actively in recovery,” Berta said. 

“Anxiety and Stress During COVID-19” teaches students how to overcome excessive worrying, understand emotions during stress and learn self-care techniques. 

Students interested in joining one of these sessions can register online.

Besides looking into individual or group therapy sessions, Berta recommends spending time doing things you enjoy and taking breaks from technology during these unprecedented times.

Megan Medfisch covers health and fitness. Contact her at [email protected].


Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.